In 2015, Vicki Bartholomew slipped and fell while shopping at a Ralphs grocery store location in Oceanside. The San Diego nurse was recently awarded more than $1.4 million in damages for her accident-related injuries. The award included $270,000 in economic damages for her medical bills and $1.1 million in non-economic damages for her pain and suffering.
Grocery Store Slip and Fall Accidents
Grocery stores can be quite unsafe if they’re not maintained properly. Slip and fall accidents often happen at grocery stores when:
- Spills aren’t cleaned up right away
- Merchandise, such as produce, falls onto the floor
- Products leak and cause puddles to form in store aisles, and
- Displays infringe on walkways.
Since grocery stores deal with products that are wet or prone to leaking, it’s particularly important to patrol for spills and wet spots on the floor. Those spots have to be cleaned immediately or roped off to prevent customers from slipping.
Duty of Care to Grocery Store Customers
In California, liability for slip and fall accidents often depends on the relationship between the property owner and the injured victim. Since grocery stores are businesses that are open to the public, customers would be considered to be invitees. An invitee is someone who has been invited onto property for the benefit of the property owner. This invitation can be express (e.g., the store owner specifically invites you into his shop) or implied (e.g., a store advertises its hours of operation and encourages you to shop there).
Invitees are owed the greatest duty of care in San Diego. Grocery stores must regularly inspect the premises for any dangerous hazards. When a hazard, such as a wet floor, is discovered, it must be fixed as soon as possible. If there’s any delay between discovering a hazard and fixing it, the store has an obligation to let customers know the hazard exists.
Failure to inspect, fix, and/or warn can result in liability if a customer is injured. Grocery stores can be on the hook for any damages a customer suffers because of a slip and fall accident, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
Ralphs Admits Negligence But Contests Value of Nurse’s Case
When Vicki Bartholomew slipped and fell at a Ralphs grocery store, she suffered a severe shoulder injury. She was forced to undergo shoulder replacement surgery to correct the damage. She suffered complications after surgery because of an infection. She required a second surgery to treat the infection, remove the old device, and have a new implant placed in her shoulder.
Ralphs did not dispute that its negligence caused Bartholomew’s shoulder injury. It agreed that it should be liable for the cost to treat that injury. However, the company was adamant that it was not responsible for the costs generated by the infection, including the second replacement surgery. At trial, Bartholomew and Ralphs both had wildly different estimates – supported by the testimony of separate experts – for how much the nurse should be compensated for the slip and fall accident.
In the end, the jury ultimately sided with the nurse. They decided that Ralph’s negligence in allowing the nurse to slip and fall was the cause of her chronic pain and expensive medical bills. She wouldn’t have had to undergo shoulder replacement surgery had it not been for the slip and fall accident. She wouldn’t have to experience chronic pain for the rest of her life had it not been for the grocery chain’s negligence. So, Ralphs was ordered to pay more than $1.4 million in damages to help the nurse get back on her feet.
The fact that Bartholomew was awarded more than $1 million in damages for her injuries is thanks, in large part, to the help of expert witnesses hired by her attorneys. While she may have been able to recover some money on her own, she may not have missed out on valuable compensation. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer to handler her case allowed to her recover every dollar she deserved for her San Diego slip and fall accident injuries.